5 Takeaways From The CTIC’s Tour Of The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta

As the 2012 Conservation In Action Tour in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta wrapped up a lunch stop and the Conservation Technology Expo at the Mill Creek Gin just north of Clarkston, MS, a light rain that had been briefly pitter-pattering on the facilities’ metal roof morphed into an intense, deafening roar.

Attendees of the trip, which included both local and national producers as well as ag retailer representatives and a variety of extension experts and environmental officials, all immediately flocked to the open Gin doors, enthralled by the prolific rainstorm that was providing much needed moisture to nearby dry fields of corn, soybeans and cotton, among other crops.

As the above example goes to show, growers and ag retailers these days are all concerned with water – both quality and quantity – so here are five takeaways from the 2012 Conservation In Action Tour:

1. Water Quality Monitoring

There is no denying the dramatic increase in farm nutrients found in U.S. waters over the past 50 years, and with an estimated 43% of the phosphorus and 66% of the nitrogen found in the Northern Gulf Hypoxia region coming from crop inputs, making sure the water that enters one of the country’s largest and most crucial watersheds is free of excess nutrients is incredibly important. At Stovall Farms, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in concert with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), has installed water quality monitoring stations around the property, capturing valuable data on nutrient levels in the waters that could potentially leave owner Pete Hunter’s 4,800-acre operation and enter the regions alluvial aquifer before heading downstream to the Gulf.

“We’re trying to tell a story here in the Delta, and that story is: What’s going on with our ground water, and how can we address water quality via best management practices,” says Matt Hicks, USGS Aquatic Ecologist. “In my opinion, it’s going to be monitoring that will make this story a success story, and we need to give growers the data to make proper water management decisions.”

2. Water Quantity Also Crucial

In a region where agricultural operations reportedly consume between 90%-95% of the available groundwater, ensuring a supply of not only clean, but plentiful fresh water for future generations is top priority. Growers throughout the Delta are taking this issue to heart, as witnessed when attendees toured the 20-acre tail-water recovery reservoir on Stovall Farms, which allows the operation to capture and reuse nearly all the water and nutrients it sprays on fields. Not only does the reservoir allow for the recycling of water and nutrients, it also allows for an additional filtering of the water before it is reapplied to the field. Although Hunter and other growers in attendance admit it can be a tough decision for a producer to make, as in Hunter’s case it required removing 20 acres of farmable land from production, the benefits of installing a recovery reservoir are quite tangible. Early NRCS and USGS estimates point to a 75% reduction in overall groundwater use over a ten year period, as well as a 50% reduction in run off, and Hunter estimated that it had already saved his operation by reducing energy costs 3/5ths.

“This is a major commitment for the land owner and a long term investment in the land, and it comes at a great cost to the grower” says Hunter of the tail-water reservoir. “But the laws of farming have changed, and we’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got. We’ve got to keep everything that we have on the farm, on the farm.”

Adds NRCS area engineer Paul Rodrigue, “Most conservation in the Delta simply comes down to preventing runoff. In that regard, these tail-water recovery systems are a win-win-win situation – they address both water quality and water conservation, and they help reduce hypoxia, making sure those nutrients aren’t ending up in the Gulf.”

3. Expanding Irrigation

According to Charlotte Bird of the Mississippi DEQ Surface Water Division, prior to the 1970s irrigation was extremely limited in the Delta. Then, in 1979, an increase in rice production, to the tune of 340,000 acres in Mississippi alone, dramatically changed that. As anyone with knowledge of rice production can tell you, rice requires water, and lots of it. Factor in the variability of the regions rainfall, half of which falls during the months of December and January, when no crops are in the ground, and one gets the picture of just how important irrigation best practices are to sustainable agriculture in the region. Today, estimates peg the percentage of the Delta’s 3 million acres at 80% irrigated, and the increase in water supply has allowed many in the region to switch from cotton to corn, increasing profit margins. “We cannot grow corn in the Delta without irrigation with the variability of our rains,” says Bird.

Travis Satterfield, a producer from nearby Benoit, MS, agrees. “We as producers have come to depend on irrigation in the Delta, so it is very important to continue expanding this practice,” he said. “Conservation is key when it comes to water use here.”

4. Restoration of Coastal Ecosystems

During the third and final stop on the tour, attendees perused one of the more unique farming operations in Williams Farm, a progressive, research-friendly farm where “soybeans, corn and cotton production co-exist with white-tail deer, bobwhite quail and native waterfowl.” At Williams, 48% of the land acres produce row crops while 30% support hardwood reforestation. Herbaceous wetlands, conservation buffers, forest and herbaceous drains make up the balance.

John Gruchy, coordinator of the Private Lands Habitat Program within the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP), consulted with owner Trey Cooke, who also serves as executive director of the Delta Farmers Advocating Resource Management (Delta F.A.R.M.), creating and implementing wildlife conservation strategies that provide multiple benefits. For example, the many native warm season grass buffers installed between fields provide a habitat for both game and non-game species, such as pollinators, and they also have shown use in biofuel production as well as water quality improvement.

“With 50% of North American birds passing through the Mississippi Alluvial Valley yearly, and 70% off all North American Mallard, we’ve got to make sure there are suitable habitats for wildlife,” says Gruchy.

Now, the Delta ranks 12th nationwide in Conservation Reserve Program Acres and 1st in the country in forest and buffer acres. But it’s not just aviary animals that producers are interested in.

“The Mississippi Delta at one time was the premier habitat for black bear,” informs Gruchy. “When Teddy Roosevelt wanted to shoot a bear back in 1902, he came to the Mississippi Delta to do it.”

According to the MDWFP, there is evidence that black bear populations are slowly increasing in Mississippi, and recent efforts by the group, alongside Farm Bill programs like the Wetlands Reserve Incentive Program, have been a catalyst. In March 2012, a Mississippi NRCS report estimated the state’s black bear populations at 120 bears, an increase of over 50% from a 2006 count, a sign that Delta growers are successfully stewarding their lands as these discerning species return to their native habitats.

5. Continued Collaboration

As you have probably already noticed, partnerships and collaboration have gone a long way in increasing growers’ awareness of conservation best practices in the Delta. Between the MDEQ, MDWFP, Mississippi River Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force (MRGMWNTF), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Delta F.A.R.M., Delta Council, NRCS, Mississippi State University Extension offices, the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, the Mississippi Soil and Water Conservation Commission and the USGS, as well as the efforts of private organizations such as the CTIC, Syngenta, Monsanto, Bayer CropScience, The Fertilizer Institute, Mosaic and the National Farmers Union, many, many groups have had a hand in shining a light on preservation and conservation efforts throughout the region. This is a trend NRCS Chief Dave White would like to see continued nationally.

“Something is bringing these groups together, and that something is conservation, and I think it is just perfect,” says White. “If I had my druthers, these programs and partnerships in the Delta would be expanded throughout the country. The fate of the environment will hinge on our ability to come together and help educate and guide millions of growers to make the right decisions.”

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

Stewardship Stories

Stewardship video screenshot
ManagementNew Video Raises Awareness of 2,4-D Stewardship
April 24, 2017
A new public service video developed and produced by the 2,4-D Research Task Force, in conjunction with the American Soybean Read More
ManagementThink You Know Water? Take WinField United’s ‘Unchartered Waters’ Quiz Via NatGeo
March 22, 2017
Water is among our most precious resources, and arguably the hardest working, with just one percent available for human use, Read More
Nebraska landscape Photo courtesy of Richard Hurd
ManagementNebraska Water: Another Opportunity To Sell Value
March 8, 2017
Keith Byerly has been an Advanced Cropping Systems (ACS) Manager with York, NE-headquartered, No. 13-ranked CropLife 100 retailer Central Valley Read More
Surface renewal station University of California, Davis
ManagementTechnology Vital In California Water Management
March 7, 2017
In this arid state, producers are exploring new ways to use water more efficiently. Drip irrigation, in particular, continues to Read More
Trending Articles
Crop InputsFlying Under the Radar No More, FMC Goes Big
April 13, 2017
Describing FMC as “under the radar,” admittedly, is probably a stretch. But in a snap of the fingers, FMC upped Read More
Young Corn Plants
Crop NutritionStill Hunting Yields
April 1, 2017
There’s no denying it — the agricultural marketplace today is undergoing a fundamental shift in fortunes. Not too many years Read More
Nutrients for Life Foundation Teacher
FertilizerNutrients For Life Foundation Celebrates 10 Years Teaching Fertilizer Education
March 23, 2017
Those in agriculture know fertilizer is a vital ingredient to grow strong, productive crops. In fact, fertilizer is responsible for Read More
AdjuvantsA New Weed-Control Era Begins: But First, One Last Obstacle
March 4, 2017
There is trepidation, there is reluctance, and there is excitement. Ag retailers feel it all about the new dicamba and Read More
LIFT Academy video screenshot
Crop InputsLIFT Agriculture Academy: A Q&A With West Central Distribution’s Dean Hendrickson
March 1, 2017
West Central Distribution recently launched its LIFT Agriculture Academy, a new, premiere training and professional development resource for West Central’s ag Read More
Farmer and aptop
Matt Hopkins10 Warning Signs Your Website Is Grossly Outdated
February 8, 2017
Your Website is often a visitor’s first impression of your ag retail business. A positive first impression can set the Read More
Latest News
ManagementWashington Update, Dow-DuPont Earnings, and the Passing…
April 27, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the latest Beltway news, crop protection company 1st quarter numbers, and the Read More
BRANDT
CropLife 100Former PotashCorp COO Joins BRANDT Board
April 27, 2017
BRANDT has announced the appointment of another industry veteran to its board of directors. David Delaney, most recently EVP and Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop InputsFortune: Inside China’s $43 Billion Bid for Food …
April 26, 2017
(Via Fortune.com) The worst famine in human history occurred in China from 1959 to 1961. An estimated 34 million people Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsSyngenta Announces Changes in Board of Directors
April 26, 2017
ChemChina and Syngenta announced changes relating to the new Board of Directors of Syngenta following the closing of the ChemChina Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Systems Introduces PerCarb Broad-Spectrum Bacte…
April 26, 2017
BioSafe Systems announces PerCarb (Sodium Carbonate Peroxyhydrate), a new alternative to potassium bicarbonate and lime sulfur products for use in Read More
Deere Twitter
EquipmentTop 10 Twitter Pics for #Plant17
April 26, 2017
Despite some wet weather in parts of the Midwest, growers and ag retailers are working feverishly to plant this year’s Read More
Donald Trump
Crop InputsTrump Targets Agriculture with Latest Executive Order
April 26, 2017
(Via UPI.com) President Donald Trump on Tuesday took executive action in an effort to help grow the domestic agriculture industry Read More
AGCO Ratliff featured
EquipmentAGCO Mourns Passing of Company Founder, Industry Vision…
April 25, 2017
AGCO Corp., a worldwide manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment and solutions, mourns the passing of founder and former President, Read More
Engenia soybeans
Crop InputsINNVICTIS CROP CARE Introduces VANDAL MOC Soybean Herbi…
April 25, 2017
INNVICTIS CROP CARE, LLC has announced the U.S. EPA registration for VANDAL MOC, a combination of sulfentrazone plus metolachlor. VANDAL Read More
Kochia
HerbicidesINNVICTIS CROP CARE Launches STAVE Post-Emerge Broadlea…
April 25, 2017
INNVICTIS CROP CARE, LLC has introduced STAVE as the newest addition to­ its expanding portfolio. STAVE will be a great Read More
Sonny Perdue
LegislationSonny Perdue Confirmed by Senate as Next Agriculture Se…
April 25, 2017
After months without a secretary of agriculture, the Senate voted Monday evening to confirm former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to Read More
BPIA logo
Seed/BiotechBPIA Files Comments with USDA
April 24, 2017
The Biological Products Industry Alliance (BPIA) has filed comments with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Plant Read More
Eric SfiligojHope for Application Equipment Sales
April 24, 2017
The old saying goes that a “rising tide lifts all boats.” If this is indeed the case, then things may Read More
Stewardship video screenshot
ManagementNew Video Raises Awareness of 2,4-D Stewardship
April 24, 2017
A new public service video developed and produced by the 2,4-D Research Task Force, in conjunction with the American Soybean Read More
ManagementAn Inside Look at Award Winning Ag Retailer Gar Tooteli…
April 20, 2017
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj discusses An Inside Look at Award Winning Ag Retailer Gar Tootelian Read More
Students Soybean Field
Industry NewsMACA Announces 2017 Young Leader Scholarship Recipients
April 19, 2017
The Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) Board of Directors selected 11 college students to receive the MACA Young Leader Scholarship Read More
Growmark FS Outlet
SoftwareKnoa Software Solution Helps GROWMARK Boost System Perf…
April 19, 2017
Knoa Software, a leading provider of user experience management (UEM) software, has announced that GROWMARK, Inc., a regional agricultural cooperative Read More
Crop InputsFBN Publishes ‘Voice of the Farmer’ Agricul…
April 17, 2017
Farmer’s Business Network (FBN) released today its “The Voice of the Farmer”, which the company is describing as “a special Read More